Lacoochee – Boys trip uptown



A Five-Year-Old Boy’s Trip Uptown With His Grandfather

E. H. Capes at age 5; picture courtesy of E. H. Capes


While E. H. Capes was growing up in Lacoochee in the 1940’s his grandfather was his best friend. He loved to listen to his stories. There was one about a man from Greece who had arrived in this logging town a long, long time ago. Unlike the house where the five-year-old and his parents lived in the Bungalow Quarters, Gus and his family lived upstairs in a two-story building. Gus had a market downstairs. He was friends with Abe, a man from Lebanon whose drug store, with its soda fountain, was on the west end of town. In between their businesses stood a line of free standing frame buildings which contained restaurants, bars, mercantile and grocery stores.

My memories of the Gus Staryos family began in the late 1930’s. Gus was married to Harriet Ophelia Bailey. They had two daughters, Ellen and Lucy who were older than me. Their son’s name was Chris. Ellen stands out in my memory because she taught tap dancing classes. I was probably around ten years old when I was in one of them. I was sure I was going to be the next Ginger Rogers. After Gus’s death in 1938, Harriet married Roy Carrington.

Today Capes lives in Dade City, FL. and in early December 2013 he found the genealogy website for Cecelia Staryos who lives in Maine. Cecelia is the oldest daughter of Chris Staryos who died in 2000 in Massachusetts at age 77. She was seeking information about her grandfather Gus. Capes shared the website with me and emails are flowing back and forth between the three of us.

“I have been interested in the Staryos family all of my life and knew so little about them except for the names Chris and Gus,” Capes wrote in one email. “My family always pronounced their name Stars and until recently I just found out the correct spelling. This interest stemmed from a day in my life that has stuck with me and I have replayed many times.

“When I was five years old my grandfather (Hugh Charles Harrelson, 1881-1949) let me walk up town with him. My grandfather, who was a night watchman at the mill, died the day after my 6th birthday. We lived just a short distance from town but with my little legs it seemed like a journey from the Bungalow Quarters. My grandfather was 6’ 6” tall and walked slowly so I could keep up. He checked the mail at the post office and then asked if I wanted to stop at Chris Stars and get a beer. We went to what later became Howard’s Bar and he helped me up on a stool and we sat at the bar.

“He ordered a beer for him and a coke for me. We were the only customers in the bar. Chris and my grandfather had a conversation while I sat there wide eyed and feeling all grown up. The bar seemed so huge to me at the time and it was a great experience for me.

“Unlike my parents, my grandfather never treated me like a child and never used baby-talk. He taught me how to tell time, my numbers and the alphabet before I started to school. He was my best friend. My eyes still tear up when I think about the great friendship that I lost when I turned six.”

Cecelia replied, “While usually not at a loss for words, I don’t know of any English phrase that mean ’the feeling in the depths of your soul upon meeting someone on the same journey.’ Thank you so much. I’ve been thinking about my Dad quite a bit this week as December 22 is the anniversary of his death. Now, I know that I am not alone. Such a beautiful story.”

Hugh Charles Harrelson (1881-1949) This is the only picture I have of my grandfather. It was taken in 1949, a month or two before he died. My mom gave it to me before she passed away (1916-1990). My brother James inherited the house in the Bungalow Quarters and fell asleep with a cigarette. The house burned down (around 1997) burning all the pictures. I just have a handful that my mom had given me when I left home.

My dad usually checked the mail after work. I think my grandfather, who rarely drank, wanted a beer. He told my mom he was going to check the mail and he would take me with him. We went to the post office first before we went to the bar.

To read more E. H. Capes’ stories, click on The Fire of 1958.

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